The marijuana debate, a judge's plea and readers' thoughts
May 17th, 2012
12:39 PM ET

The marijuana debate, a judge's plea and readers' thoughts

Ahead of a New York state bill that would recognize marijuana for medical purposes, a state supreme judge with cancer writes in its favor in a recent New York Times op-ed.

Gustin L. Reichbach, a justice of the New York State Supreme Court, has spent the last three and a half years battling pancreatic cancer and says inhaled marijuana is his only relief.

In his op-ed advocating legitimate clinical use of marijuana, he writes:

This is not a law-and-order issue; it is a medical and a human rights issue. Being treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, I am receiving the absolute gold standard of medical care. But doctors cannot be expected to do what the law prohibits, even when they know it is in the best interests of their patients. When palliative care is understood as a fundamental human and medical right, marijuana for medical use should be beyond controversy.

The issue of medical marijuana and legalizing marijuana for recreational use keeps circling in the national conversation and political scene. (The issue took over the campaign in the Oregon attorney general primary race this week, for example.)

Earlier this year on GPS, Fareed Zakaria examined the impact the war on drugs has had on the overcrowded U.S. prison system, based on the infamous comments by Pat Robertson to treat marijuana the way we treat alcohol.

As Fareed wrote:

The reason Robertson is for legalizing marijuana is that it has created a prison problem in America that is well beyond what most Americans imagine. ... No other country comes even close to our rates of incarceration.

Taking up a similar theme as Robertson, a Colorado advocacy group is spending thousands of dollars to convince people that smoking pot is safer than drinking alcohol.

It's an attempt by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol to rally support for a vote in November that would legalize the drug for recreational use. (Colorado legalized marijuana for medical use in 2000.) If it were legalized, Colorado would be the first state to legalize recreational marijuana use.

One Gallup poll showed that 46% of U.S. respondents say marijuana use should remain illegal, while 50% say the use should be made legal.

It's also one of the top issues in the (unscientific) iReport Debate, in which CNN iReporters share the issue that matters most to them in the coming election.

As one reader writes: "The day we open the door to legalizing pot is the day other drugs will redesign themselves to fit the same criteria, so they may also enter. You can't say 'just this one' – 'and this one only'."

It's an issue with many opinions so what do you think? Take part in the iReport Debate and share your comments below.

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Topics: Debate • Drugs • Reader Comments

soundoff (464 Responses)
  1. Elmo222
    The U S Dept. of Health and Human Services has a patent on it; look it up.

    May 19, 2012 at 1:13 am | Reply
  2. bigpicture1

    Another reason legalization faces resistance...fear. One side always exploits fear for personal gain....

    The movie 'Reefer Madness' was successful in making several associations that have withstood time and reason.

    1) It began with the premise that all blacks/minorities were inferiors and criminals.
    2) Smoking one joint turned them all into zombies, whose only desire was to attack white women.
    3) White men do not smoke MJ.
    4) Any white woman who smokes will as a result become a race traitor.

    Some of this still remains a fear in many minds.
    With this thinking, all the positive effects of legalization – economic, medical, judicial are ignored.
    The mindset has become – a white who smokes – suffered a tempory problem. A black who smokes
    is a thug and a criminal who deserves to spend hard time in a capitalist prison system...
    AND, upon release, be rewarded with a scarlet letter to use as reference for any future job opportunities.

    May 19, 2012 at 5:09 am | Reply
  3. 28mAmerican

    TY judge if you need support because of speaking out just get the word out. We will support you.

    May 19, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Reply
  4. sean

    i believe pot should be legalized.....the people who feel against legalization have never tried...its cool and would really help our economy....

    May 19, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Reply
  5. Callie2

    Legalize it for everyone and be done with it. Laws punishing users have caused more damage to people and families than pot itself. Time for the DEA to get a budget cut.

    May 20, 2012 at 10:01 am | Reply
  6. Ramana7

    Legalize it. Entrepreneurialize it. Tax it.

    I'm a researcher by profession. There are uses for Marijuana even in my tiny field in the petroleum industry. There are very legitimate food uses for hemp and marijuana. There are clothing usages–did you know that it takes only 1/5 the energy to convert hemp to use for clothes as it goes to convert cotton? I can't begin to tell you the wide range of uses for this plant. How did we ever make such an amazing plant and raw material to be made illegal? Fear. That's all.

    It's medical uses are only beginning to be understood. There is so much further testing that needs to be done and should be LEGAL to do. In so many fields and even in so many industries.

    But look at the bad it deadly to use? Does it cause addiction? As a Scientist, I'd say England has it right. Marijuana rates below alcohol for all undesirable categories. This means pot is lower risk than alcohol, less addictive and less dangerous to your health. And has a less dangerous effect on its users.

    Alcohol is much more likely to influence you to do bad things, to put it shortly. Alcohol affects inhibitions. In other words, you will act out things while drinking that you would NEVER do while sober. Alcohol can both reveal hidden tendencies or desires otherwise kept at bay in sobriety. However you describe it, we all know that under the influence of alcohol some people tend toward becoming louder, ruder, and self-control goes out the window in both motor abilities and mental ones as well.

    Marijuana may appear to have some similarities, but I'm a scientist. My own experience is what rules the day. Some may seem jarred, he's admitting to illicit drug use. But I'm raising the point that it appears most that are so adamantly against marijuana are those who have never used it. Well, no one is forcing anyone, but it's irresponsible to take a staunch position about something one has no empirical knowledge of. Most who have any right to say anything about it, meaning they have first hand knowledge of it at least, would at least admit it's less dangerous to society than alcohol, or at the very least, would say it's of no greater concern than is alcohol.

    Now granted, there are politics tied to this issue to this day. The cotton industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the alcohol industry–these are just three of the giants who have dogs in the fight as far as $$ is concerned. Both parties officially are against marijuana, Obama being the latest president to make war on medical marijuana, which is a mistake.

    And it is a human rights issue. It is. It is a quality of life issue. It's not going to hurt you. There will be a lot more room and money to investigate and prosecute real crimes. There's no danger of meth, for example, being legalized with marijuana. They aren't in the same substance planet as each other. There may be a bridge for such substances as mushrooms, but like Marijuana, mushrooms have never caused a single known death. These are not "OD" drugs. They are natures medicine for various uses and that should be your choice. You should not be forced to contribute billions of dollars to pharmaceutical companies when a plant you could grow for yourself would give you equal or greater relief and comfort. But now you have to fight the pharmaceutical companies for the right, and you have to fight their lies, and their bad science they've tried to buy.

    Weed is a right.

    May 20, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Reply
  7. SmokeScreen

    Legalizing marijuana should have come decades ago. There is no moral, medical or legal justification for arresting and incarcerating marijuana users, or taking away their children, denying them jobs or firing them from their jobs. Absolutely no justification save the "Chicken Little" lies that have been spewed by the powers that be for far too many years. Not one more death by law enforcement. Not one more arrest. Not one more job denied. Stop the madness.

    May 20, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Reply
  8. fractalsallday

    Wait, there's a debate about cannabis legalization? Since when? I thought everyone with opinions informed enough to be taken seriously already know that cannabis is safer than LSD.

    May 20, 2012 at 10:39 pm | Reply
  9. fractalsallday

    *Correction – ALMOST AS SAFE

    May 20, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Reply
  10. dakota2000

    Marijuana is unique. It was designed by nature in a symbiotic relationship with man. It is unlikely that it is just a coincidence that many components of Marijuana are psychoactive and target neurochemeical receptors in human brains.

    It is manifestly absurd to think that a government should come between man and nature.

    It is a crime to lock people up for enjoying nature. Should we also lock people up for viewing the grand canyon or for viewing flowers?

    This is complete and utter nonsense.

    Of course it should be legal because it should never have been made illegal in the first place.


    May 21, 2012 at 2:50 am | Reply
  11. David May

    PLEASE DON'T LEGALIZE MARIJUANA. If its made legal for everyone I will lose $$$$$$. You see with it,POT, being illegal there is a big demand for it and most people are scared to grow there own. So you see there is lots of money to be made. I can grow 50 k a year in my back yard and then sell it to all the people that are scared to do it them self. Vote NO TO LEGALIZE MARIJUANA, KEEP A DRUG DEALER IN BUSINESS. THANKS.

    One thing you could make illegal that should have been for the last 50 years is tobacco .


    May 21, 2012 at 11:21 am | Reply
  12. David May

    Out of all the post, only one idiot is still against keeping it illegal. That sounds like more then 50%.

    May 21, 2012 at 11:48 am | Reply
  13. Michelle

    I think that destructive drugs are bad for the body and for the society. Just look at the drug wars in Mexico and the violence it is causing. Every time we think that our choices do not affect others we can see how untrue it is if you look. Everything you do has an effect, even using Marijuana. It is damaging to others in many ways and to you as it does cloud your thinking and judgment. Please we as Americans need to hold ourselves to a higher standard and not do things that damage ourselves and others. Let's not support drugs and violence in our country. We are better than that!

    May 21, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Reply
  14. justsayin

    Legalize Marijuana.
    Remove all penalty and stigma from growing and possessing it.
    A couple of simple facts should make this decision a simple one.
    It is a plant that has been used ritually and recreationally for centuries. Not only for the benefits of the active ingredient, THC, but also for hemp products. It is already recognized as medically useful in some states.
    Another overlooked benefit of legalization is the fact that it would definitely cut into the profit of Mexican drug cartels and Middle Eastern terrorist groups. The amount they would lose is estimated to be in millions of dollars. How much impact do you think this loss would have on their operations? How many innocent lives could be SAVED by one simple act of Congress?
    Meanwhile, it could prove to be a revenue boost to the economy of THIS country in the form of permits. Almost everybody that I have asked has answered affirmatively when asked if they would be willing to pay a yearly permit fee in order to be able to grow marijuana for their own personal use. Some have agreed that $100 per year would not be unreasonable. How much money is that? Considering the statistics which tell us that marijuana use is one of our “biggest” drug problems, I would venture it would definitely be worth it to the federal government to put this idea to the test.
    Nobody would be forced to use marijuana. It could be regulated similarly to alcohol. Most of the people I know who use marijuana are responsible people who have jobs and families. They are just trying to get by like everyone else. It is shameful to take that away from them because they choose to use, in its natural state, a natural product that grows up out of this earth.
    Further, all of the propaganda that is meant to scare the American people into thinking that there will be an explosion in crime due to legalization is false. It would actually serve to reduce marijuana related crime…People would not have to associate with “drug dealers” any longer, trafficking (and all of the bad things that go with it) of marijuana would cease, and people whose only “crime” is possession of marijuana would be able to continue to work their jobs and live their lives and still be productive American citizens. Think how much taxpayer money could be saved by NOT having to prosecute and incarcerate these people. And think of the benefits of NOT losing their economic productivity due to incarceration. (Another economic advantage, here.)
    I know the pharmaceutical companies will raise a ruckus because they will lose some profit from this move. Lots of people may quit taking xanax and other prescription medicines that they DO NOT NEED because a natural product will take care of their needs. But they have people convinced enough that their products are miracles that it shouldn’t cause them much hardship and legalization will relieve the hardship of many Americans who can’t afford their miracles.
    A failure by the American government to enact legislation to legalize marijuana only proves the collusion of the government with pharmaceutical companies to poison the American people for profit and the support of terrorist groups worldwide by that government. Not to mention the fact that to ignore the implication of the economic benefits of legalization is just plain dumd-headed.
    DO IT NOW!!!

    May 21, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Reply
  15. Indrid Cold

    As a chronic pain sufferer who has been on opioid analgesics for six years, I can say that it is ridiculous to ban marijuana from the doctor's pharmacopeia. My own doctor would prefer to prescribe this natural and effective substance as opposed to the drug I currently use. Managing opioid medication requires continuious fine tuning of dosage. However, until the legal liabilities are worked out, I dare not take the chance of using the forbidden weed. I travel frequently for work, were I to have an automobile accident that resulted in injury or death, I could well find myself bankrupted by a lawsuit (or jail!). However, the drug I take now would cause no such problem. Insane.

    May 21, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Reply
  16. Joboo

    Wow the lib college professors have really indoctrinated you suburban white kids and you're all too stupid to see it. One day you'll have kids and finally grow up.

    May 21, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Reply
    • Jose

      "lib"? Maybe you need to grow up yourself do some research on the topic. Cannabis use was and remains criminalized based on lies.

      The facts are that the law in question falsely claims that marijuana has no safe, accepted medical use in the United States.

      All use, EVEN recreational use is medical, period. Unlike tobacco and alcohol, which factually have their medical applications, cannabis does not kill.

      Stupid, indeed.

      May 23, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Reply
  17. Michelle

    We as a country need to cut back all drug use, perscription and otherwise. It would solve a lot of our societal problems.

    May 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Reply
    • Jose

      Again, research answers your objection. Cannabis safely replaces many deadly prescription and "social" drugs.

      May 23, 2012 at 10:44 pm | Reply
  18. easye123

    I think we live in a sick society that would deny a man an inexpensive and safe medicine that has proven to better his quality of life and potentially even save it.... yet that society has no problems with allowing a man to take other drugs with much worse side effects to help him get a hard-on.

    June 21, 2012 at 11:44 am | Reply
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